Mexican-Americans Aren't Moving Up, Study Finds

Fewer than 1 percent of U.S.-born Mexican-Americans hold jobs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

December 15, 2011

U.S.-born Mexican-Americans in the Chicago area seem destined to repeat the same low-skilled jobs as their immigrant predecessors, a new study says.


Roughly half of the Mexican immigrants working in the six-county region have jobs in the food service, construction and manufacturing industries. Forty percent of U.S.-born workers of Mexican descent hold similar jobs, trapped by a "blue-collar ceiling," according to a study released Thursday by the New Journalism on Latino Children project.


Fewer than 1 percent of U.S.-born Mexican-Americans hold jobs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.


"There is limited intergenerational mobility between immigrant Mexican workers and U.S.-born Mexicans," said Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, a Chicago-based civic organization. "We're not seeing a lot of economic mobility."


The study found that the median annual income for men born in Mexico who are working in Chicago is $28,000. For their U.S.-born counterparts, the median leaps to $47,000. "That is still significantly behind the $65,000 for non-Hispanic white males," Puente said.


U.S.-born Mexican women fare better in the workplace, with more of them in administrative jobs, the study showed.


John Koval, a retired DePaul University sociology professor who led the research, said Mexican-American women tend to advance further in school. "They don't have the same dropout rates (as men), which gives them an edge to look for jobs," Koval said.


The New Journalism on Latino Children project is a program of the University of California's Institute of Human Development. DePaul University conducted the research, which focused on Mexicans because 80 percent of Latino workers in Chicago trace their roots to Mexico.

Filed by Lorene Yue of Crain’s Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email


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